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Next D2C frontier: Growing frustration sweeping the landscape, go with the flow to stay in the game

By APB+ Media Maven

The number of new subscribers for video streaming service is expected to peak this year as content providers fight for direct-to-consumer (D2C) market shares amidst growing frustration among viewers and the unwelcome prospect of market churn.

Adding to the heady mix is Samsung’s announcement that it is launching games as part of its new video-streaming aggregation. 

Currently, households are spending 19% of their viewing time on streaming contents, according to data from Nielsen’s Total Audience Report. It lists the following attributes as crucial in attracting and holding on to subscribers:

The Nielsen report states that when subscribers decide which service to enrol, they mentioned cost (84%), ease of use (81%) and variety of contents available (79%) as the top three reasons for signing up.

The year-end reports from the streaming providers are revealing too. Disney+has more than 118 million paying customers, HBO and HBO Max nearly 74 million and the top player, Netflix, more than 216 million worldwide.

On October 2, 2021, Disney+ revealed that it had 118.1 million subscribers worldwide, up from 116 million in the previous quarter. However, the number was below Wall Street expectation of 126.2 million.

CEO Bob Chapek earlier in September did caution that Disney+ expected growth to slow down citing COVID-related production delays as one reason.

On a brighter note, HBO and HBO Max ended the year with 73.8 million subscribers, said WarnerMedia parent company AT&T in a regulatory filing on January 5, 2022.

The figure exceeds the company’s expectations. A line-up that included sci-fi blockbuster Dune, The Matrix Resurrections and Sex & The City sequel, “And Just Like That” possibly helped to pull in subscribers.

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said HBO and HBO Max experienced growth in all markets worldwide in Q4 2021 because of several factors such as the premiere of new content, expansion of HBO Max into new markets, and enhancements to the product experience.

Market churn

While the COVID-19 pandemic has lifted allboats working the stream, the tide is now ebbing. Subscriber numbers have reached a plateau in mature markets such as North America and Europe.

In 2022, churn will be the big story, according to Paul Pastor, Founder and Chief Business Officer at Firstlight Media, a streaming infrastructure provider.  He explains,“Now there’s real competition to keep those customers, which is why Disney and others are investing heavily in content.”

According to Variety.com, John Peters, Head of Media & Entertainment at Accenture, believes that 2022 will see the major global streaming players attempting to steal share from one another and develop new sources of revenue. “Increasingly, we’ll see a “bifurcation of the industry – those who can charge rent and those who pay rent,” he says.

What he means in plain English: There will be a class of video streamers like Netflix, Disney+ and possibly WarnerMedia coupled with Discovery that have enough scale to serve as the “front door” to a bundle of content. On the platform side, aggregators such as Google, Roku, Apple and Amazon (with Fire TV and Prime Video) will gain traction.

Gaming the next frontier in streaming

Now is the time for streaming aggregators to bring together multiple content services that will add games, music, social media and more to the video-on-demand contents.

Netflix, for one, has taken a step in this direction by adding games to its core service. 

On this front, Samsung Electronics is making a new play for gamers on its flagship TVs. At CES last week (January 6), Samsung officially announced its new game streaming discovery platform, Gaming Hub, essentially a new software platform that brings other gaming streaming platforms together in the same place, all the while offering gamers suggestions and ways to discover new content.

Gaming Hub will be released globally later this year, at a yet to be specified date. The platform, which is powered by Tizen, will be released on select Samsung smart TV models in 2022.

According to the company, one of the biggest problems when gamers subscribe to multiple cloud gaming providers is that it is becoming more difficult for them to keep track of their favourite games and their subscriptions. With Samsung Gaming Hub, smart TV users will gain easy access to gaming streaming services including NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW, Google Stadia, and Utomik, all in one place, without requiring any additional hardware other than a decent gaming controller.

“We think gaming is the next frontier. It’s the last major media entertainment sector to go streaming,” says Sang Kim, Samsung’s Senior VP who oversees the software and services teams for smart TVs and Galaxy mobile devices.

What frustrated consumers want

Accenture reports that it conducted a survey of 6,000 consumers worldwide which finds that consumers are finding streaming to be complicated, expensive, hard to use, and not at all personal.

In the survey made available on January 4 , Accenture explores reasons for consumer frustration and how a new aggregator role could help put the joy back into the streaming experience.

It warns: Streamers who ignore these realities and instead focus blindly on subscriber acquisition as a stand-alone entity risk peril in a shifting landscape.

“In our survey of 6,000 consumers in North America, South America, Europe, South Africa, and Asia-Pacific, participants identified a lot of room for improvement in how they navigate and search across various providers, the types and pricing of bundles they’re offered, and the relevance of the recommendations they receive. 

“Overall, consumers’ responses point to three big issues that are eroding the streaming experience.

“While growth in streaming services has given consumers an explosion in choice, it’s also created considerable complexity. As they adopt more services, consumers must manually browse through platforms, screens, and menus until they eventually find what they’re looking for.”

And navigating through OTT services is like entering different rabbit holes, each with its own entry and exit — a turnoff for consumers.

The survey reports that 60% of consumers consider the process of navigating among different streaming services frustrating. And 44% spend more than six minutes trying to find something they want to watch.

Personalisation is off the mark

Incomplete or inaccurate recommendations is the experience for most consumers. That’s because only the consumers’ own remote truly knows everything they watched.

Many algorithms generate recommendations based on an incomplete viewing history, and those recommendations can be wide off the mark. 

Further, consumers cannot tune the model, except through actual show selection. Hence, a majority of consumers said they would like to be able to take their profile from one service to another to better personalise content (56%); and they’d be happy to let a video-on-demand service know more about them to make recommendations that reflect their preference and interest.

Accenture recommends that for streaming to continue to grow and fulfil its potential, a big change to the ecosystem is needed — the addition of a smart aggregator, sitting across multiple platforms, that dramatically increases viewers’ control over the content they watch.

This aggregator should:

1. Unify the experience through APIs and data-sharing agreements, which create seamless access across streaming services,

2. Serve as a single platform that enables viewers to select exactly what they want to watch regardless of who’s providing it.

3. Personalise the experience by providing seamless navigation and curation across streaming services, created in collaboration with and for every individual.

Do not ignore the significant changes to the existing D2C media regime taking place in 2022 … be nimble and address the pain points of your target customers to remain in the game.

Question: What frustrated consumers want right now, according to Accenture, is a new aggregator who can put joy back into the streaming experience. Less pain, more gain?

Please send your answer and/or suggestion on how to reduce the pain points of gamers to  maven@editecintl.com

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